Early Dylan just sounds better in mono, making this CD box set the holy grail of Dylan audiophilia. The eight reissues— from his 1962 eponymous debut through 1967’s John Wesley Harding—feature the original monaural mixes. Gone is the weird stereo separation that split voice, guitar, and harmonica into an unnaturally wide soundstage. Restored is the punchy bass that had been reduced in the original stereo mixes (and carried over to the first CDs) to meet limitations of early- to mid- 60s stereo cartridge technology. Also, there are numerous subtle differences between these mono discs and the original stereo releases, and even some non-US mono versions, which exhibited alterations in track length, musical pitch, tempo, edits, fades, reverb levels, and other elements.
Sonically, these mono discs were mixed in the 60s to boost the impact of singles on AM radio. So even the electric band recordings, from Bringing It All Back Home on, benefit from added warmth and focus. Blonde and Blonde (restored to its two-CD format), especially, is much deeper. And John Wesley Harding has never sounded better. Dylan spent a lot of time supervising the original mono mixes, and these reissues accurately reflect his intentions.